Oran Brown and Jim White, two African Americans involved with the United States Marine Corps, are as disparate as their last names.
Both are civilians, working in a second career and committed to helping marines make the transition from military to civilian life. Through mutual toil they were able pull together a job fair for Camp Pendleton's marines last Friday at an Oceanside assembly hall.
White, a large man with the gentle looks of a little league coach, is in the civilian component of the Marine Corps' Community Services Support Section. It's his job to help marines make it on the outside.
"I retired from the Marines in '94," White said. "I know how it can be coming out, learning something new, searching for work."
Though several decades White's junior, Brown is also into a second career. After graduating from United States International University in San Diego-now Alliant International University, a school dedicated to a multi-national and multicultural approach to education-Brown went into professional golf. He's also two years into a nonprofit world of diversity-encouragement he finds every bit as challenging and rewarding as the links.
A relatively new venture, The Diversity Group is the nonprofit that pays his bills. It's based in San Diego and dedicated to putting prospective applicants into diversity-friendly companies. This year marks the company's first-ever Diversity Awards luncheon where companies like Qualcomm, SeaWorld and the San Diego Padres, the Navy Reserve and Congressman Bob Filner will be honored.
"There are a lot of under-represented communities out there," Brown said. "The disabled community, mature adults, different ethnic communities-and they all need direction. It's our goal to help those communities become aware and educated."
The company aims to hold a job fair every month in the San Diego area. Brown said he approached the Marine Corps to hold a fair to "pay tribute to our armed forces and the military community." It's an especially sensitive time. A small exodus is expected in the coming months as a "stop-loss" moratorium on exiting the corps, necessitated by war, has been lifted.
Despite Friday's dismal attendance, Brown was optimistic that the event established a solid foundation to build on. He went on to explain that an unforeseen scheduling snafu prohibited many of the marines from leaving base in time to catch the show's 2 p.m. closing. Still, something in the way he held his head indicated he took the poor turnout personally.
White, on the other hand, wasn't fazed. His office will be holding one of its biannual marine job fairs next month. Asked about the low turnout, he flashed a small counter he held in his hand, which indicated 150 people had come through the doors-a suspiciously high figure given that only a handful of people were seen engaging booth attendants at any given time.
San Diego Sheriff's deputy Laura Coyne kept busy by chatting up her partner and the Border Patrol representatives at the booth next door. Though the Sheriff's Department was represented at the fair, Coyne acknowledged the agency is currently under a hiring freeze-as are nearly all police agencies in San Diego County.
"Nobody knows how long [the hiring freeze] is going to last," she said. "Our application process takes six to eight months, so we want people in the process, so they can begin" when the freeze is lifted.
Across the room, Robert Owen sat behind perhaps the most inert booth at the fair-the U.S. Army recruiters. A 10-year paratrooper recently back from Afghanistan, where he was awarded the Bronze Star, the Texas native said it's not uncommon for the Army to take advantage of any opportunity to recruit. The Marine Corps factor "doesn't bother me at all," he said. "I look forward to the challenge."
Most company representatives-Wells Fargo, North County Transit District, the Navy, Culligan, Maric College and JobSummit.com, among several dozen in attendance-began breaking down tables and packing up before the scheduled 2 p.m. end-of-show.
While Oran Brown forced a smile, it was just another day-on-the-outside for Jim White.
"I went through the [transition] process myself. I learned to identify the obstacles," said White. "Then I started helping other people through it. A lot of them think there's a lot of opportunity and money on the outside. My job's bringing their expectations back down-way down... to the ground. I just tell them, "If [successful transition] happened to me, it can happen to you. It's not all over.'"